Open Data in Tourism.

Over the past few years, the issue of open data has frequently been the subject of heated debate among touristic authorities and DMOs.

In this article we want to talk about open data in tourism. We will try to answer the following questions: what is it, where does it come from and why is it necessary.

Firstly, let’s start with the concept of “open data” (hereinafter referred to as OD).

In December 2007, a group of leaders of public opinion met in Sebastopol city, California, to discuss and define the concept of open public data. They agreed that certain data should be freely available for repeated use by any interested parties. Moreover, it will fully comply with the concept of OD, if it is available online, presented in a digital and machine-readable format that ensures compatibility with other data, and do not have any restrictions on the use and re-publication.

And in less than 2 years, the US government created a state open data portal. More than 70 other countries also made their data public. Over 1 million data sets were published on various portals.

Governments, companies, international institutions, public organizations are increasingly following this concept. By revealing data, the government provides citizens with the opportunity to be more informed and participate in the decision-making processes. The concept of an “Open Government” ensures transparency through free and unrestricted access to state data and information, except personal data and top-secret information. In addition, the presence of state OD gives opportunities for entrepreneurs, provides access to a variety of useful data sets for the creation of enterprises and services.

There are many types of open data. For instance:

Cultural – information about museums, excavations and artifacts, cultural events and more;

Scientific – published as part of research data in various fields of science;

Financial – information about government‘s accounts and the state of financial markets;

Meteorological – data on changes in weather and climate;

Statistical – data from various statistical offices;

Environmental data, such as the presence and level of pollutants, the quality of rivers and seas;

Data on transport – all kinds of information about routes, timetables, etc .;

For example, more than 200,000 sets of OD are published on the US government‘s website https://catalog.data.gov/dataset.

Here is another example of the OD site of a separate ministry – https://healthdata.gov/.

And here is the site of urban OD – https://data.cityofchicago.org/.

The question of usefullness of OD still does not have a clear answer. Government ODs undoubtedly have democratic benefits, but are not always practical. A bus schedule, for example, is not of democratic benefit, but useful services and applications can be developed on its basis.

Nevertheless, gradually, ODs find more and more widespread practical use. Here you can find almost 600 examples of using OD of the European Data Portal in various applications, websites, programs and businesses of different countries. A giant like Google has already created more than 50 sets of ODs for the use by other developers and researchers, and has developed a special search engine for OD sources. Here is what Google writes about this on its blog: https://www.blog.google/technology/ai/sharing-open-data/.

In tourism, information on attractions, services and businesses provided by DMO can be useful. It includes prices, addresses, locations, routes, visitor statistics, etc. Based on these ODs, tourism related applications can be developed. They can be used by touristic service providers and various startups in tourism. And, of course, do not forget about upcoming technologies. Artificial intelligence is just around the corner and systematic ODs are likely to be used in this area.

But today there are still discussions around the issue of OD in the touristic industry. On one hand, according to the general trend of openness and transparency, DMOs are obliged to provide OD sets on their web portals. On the other hand, there are no clear algorithms for doing this. In our opinion, part of the problem also lies in the misunderstanding of the concept of OD and its compatibility with GDPR. In addition, the question of copyright of photographs, images and video materials that DMOs should include in a set of OD of local sights remains open.

As for the end user – an ordinary tourist, of course, OD is not the most important thing for him / her. The final product in the form of information, services and applications created with or without OD is important for the tourist. All of these should be presented on the Internet, be easily accessible, understandable to the user, relevant to his requests and, of course, updated.

We hope that soon we will see some progress in resolving the situation with OD in tourism. In the meantime, we invite professionals to discuss these issues in our social networks.

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